Senate passes disaster aid, Congress heads home
Before departing for the Memorial Day recess late Thursday, the Senate passed a disaster aid package that includes money for farmers ravaged by hurricanes, floods and wildfires.
The House had already left for the recess. The lower chamber could pass it on a voice vote while most members are out of town, but that would have to be by unanimous consent and that appeared to be unlikely.
Congress will return the week of June 3.
An attempt by House leaders to pass the disaster aid bill by unanimous consent failed when Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, refused to agree, The Washington Post reported.
President Donald Trump said at the White House on Thursday that he agreed to support the package without the money he wanted to deal with immigration at the border because “I have to take care of my farmers with the disaster relief.”
“This way, our farmers from not only Georgia, Alabama, different places, some in Florida — but if you look at what happened in Nebraska and Iowa and a lot of different places, they got wiped out.” Trump said. “They got hurt badly. And I didn’t want to hold that up any longer.”
“So the answer is: I totally support it. I’d like to see it happen,” Trump said. “We’ll take care of the immigration later. The wall is being built.”
Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a lead negotiator on the supplemental, said: “Even though it may be five months late, today is a good day for the United States Congress, for the American people, and for the nation.”
“I have said from the beginning that any disaster supplemental that passes this chamber cannot pick and choose which American citizens to help in their time of need. The American community bands together to support one another when disaster strikes, regardless of where we are from, our politics, or our beliefs. That is the American way, and it is the role of Congress to make sure it is done.”
The disaster package aids a number of states and territories recovering from hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other natural disasters: Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, California, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Kansas.
The $19 billion disaster package includes help for farmers to recover from floods, wildfires and other natural disaster, and nearly a billion dollars of disaster aid for Puerto Rico, more than Trump wanted.
The Senate package includes $600 million in disaster food assistance and another $300 million in housing rebuilding funds for Puerto Rico. It also would expedite allocation of $8.9 billion Congress has already passed for the territory.
“Millions of Americans are suffering and this disaster relief plan is urgently needed,” noted Eric LeCompte, who leads the religious development group Jubilee USA.
“We applaud Senate leaders and the White House for agreeing on a disaster deal,” he said. “In Puerto Rico alone, more than a million Americans lost disaster food assistance in March and that aid is finally restored.”